Today, Sprint dispensed with all subtlety. Without any pretense of net neutrality whatsoever, the carrier unveiled a plan with options to pay more for unfettered access to social media and streaming music, depending on the tier.
The Virgin Mobile Custom plan, sold under Sprint’s Virgin Mobile brand, provides unlimited access to one of four social media services – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest – on top of your data plan for $12 a month. An additional $10 will net unlimited use of all four, while $5 more grants unlimited streaming from any one music app. The base plan also includes 20 minutes of talk time and 20 texts, both of which can be upgraded. Lines start at $6.98 a month, $5 extra for “unlimited” access. Plans can be adjusted on the fly, even daily if so desired.
The plan, President of Prepaid at Sprint Dow Draper told the Wall Street Journal, isn’t currently part of a promotion – none of the companies featured are subsidizing connection costs, unlike AT&T’s Sponsored Data program, but he said “it’s definitely possible” down the road.
The new plan embodies the anti-net neutrality schemes advocates have been warning about for years. Instead of allowing data to flow unimpeded, Virgin Mobile Custom very clearly discriminates against a huge number of apps, ultimately relegating them to more restrictive data plans. If Sprint’s goal, as Mr. Draper implies, is to provide the Internet at palatable prices for poorer consumers, perhaps lower-cost (the cheapest data package Virgin is offering starts at $8 a month) capped but open access with an option to pay for more might be more appropriate . Heck, T-Mobile does it free for tablets – why can’t Sprint do the same for prepaid phones?
These plans will be made available through Walmart beginning August 9. Supported handsets include the LG Unify, LG Pulse, and ZTE Emblem.